Course of events during the Grand Slam tournaments in previous years showed that men's competition makes fans to wait for the most interesting settlements till the later stages of the show. Women's contests on the biggest stage often surprise with some upsets, which makes the countdown for the opening rounds even more exciting. This time, just the hours before the start of Australian Open 2023, the women's rivarly is even more spiced with the shape of main draw. Here, we focus on what can we wait for in the top half of the field.
This year's edition will emerge the new tennis queen of Melbourne, while reigning champion Ash Barty retired from tennis just after winning the title on the home soil last year. However, the first quarter of the draw contains the players, who were the key names of AO 2022.
Section 1 (left side of the pic) paired Iga Swiatek and Danielle Collins on a course for possible collision as early as in the round of 16. It can be an absolute best clash of AO 2023's first week, with a subtext of revenge after last year's beatdown which Collins made for Swiatek in the semifinal, a few weeks after the start of Swiatek's golden streak with 37 wins in a row.
To make it happen, both players need to prevail in their opening matches. Swiatek faces Julia Niemeier, who made her struggle in their meeting during US Open 2022. German player was a set and break up on world #1 during the most difficult match on Swiatek's road to win the US Grand Slam last year. Niemeier lost her only two matches in 2023, but it's definitely not the easiest possible peak for R1. Collins will face Anna Kalinskaya. The Russian is ranked #64, but TennisRatio data analysis say that her rank can be a little underestimated. During hard-court matches, she created more BPs per game Collins (0.82 vs 0.77) and her serve accuracy is less vulnerable - 63% first srv acc on average to Collins 54%. Kalinskaya makes 0.39 double faults per game to as much as 0.55 from Collins. However, it's the American who converts her on-court dominance better, having much higher ratios of converting breakpoints into winning games and matches in general.
Another interesting names in this section are Marie Bouzkova - seed #25 who can be Swiatek's opponent in R3 and Elena Rybakina. Kazakh who did not receive any single point for her last year's Wimbledon title, can clash with Collins for the second time this year after their three-setter in Adelaide won by Rybakina (full story).
Second section will miss a player who showed brilliant form in last week's Adelaide tournament. Paula Badosa, who withdrawn from AO due to abductor injury (full story), could be a possible rival of Coco Gauff in R16. It could be a true clash of in-form players, as Gauff won her opening tournament of the year in Auckland (WTA 250). Badosa's withdrawal makes this part of draw more unpredictable, as the second highest seed there is Jelena Ostapenko. The Latvian is a huge unknown factor, who fluctuates with her form literally one match after another. The eyes of British fans will be focused on Emma Raducanu, who picked up an injury in Auckland two weeks ago and there are some doubts, if the US Open 2021 champion is fully fit for this tournament. She needs to, while her possible opponent in 2nd round is Cori Gauff.
Third section stays under the sign of the title challenge of Jessica Pegula. The world #3 who showed brilliant form in United Cup competition, winning whole the contest with her team, beating Swiatek on the road to the final (full story) will be a serious contender in Melbourne. This section contains four exciting names from Czech Republic. Brenda Fruhvirtova, the 15 years old who debuts in Grand Slam, can be Pegula's rival in second round. Another youngster, 16 y/o Sara Bejlek will face the French Open 2021 champion - Barbora Krejcikova, in all-Czech first round meeting. No one can write-off Petra Kvitova - 2-times Wimbledon champ and AO 2019 finalist is the second highest seed in section 3.
Fourth section guarantees some even matches and can be quite an unpredictable. The highest seed is Maria Sakkari, who participated last year's WTA Finals. The Greek has quite a pleasant path to R16. Another high seed there is Madison Keys. The American who reached semifinals last year will defend quite a couple of ranking points and needs to deliver in Melbourne again. The top match of first round is a clash between former AO champions - Victoria Azarenka will face Sofia Kenin, who tries to come back after long break caused by injuries.